Posted On 11 May 2016
Tag: actor, actress, Alaska, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, allaccessmusicnicole, Ang Lee, Big & Rich, Blues Traveler, Cole Porter, Delaware, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran, Ella Fitzgerald, Famous Blue Raincoat, Fisher-Price, Foolish Games, Hallmark, Hearts Still Awake, Homer, Jason Isbell, Jewel, John Rich, Joni Mitchell, Kelly Clarkson, Leonard Cohen, LORETTA LYNN, Lullaby, Make It Last, Musician, My Father's Daughter, Mystery Wheel, Picking Up The Pieces Tour, Pink Floyd, Pink Panther, Pistol Annies, poet, Poetry, Rodney Crowell, Rounder Records, Selena Gomez, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Soundcloud, Spotify, The Merry Goes 'Round, Tyrese, Who Will Save Your Soul, yodel, yodelling, You Were Meant For Me
From the remote tundra of her Alaskan youth to the triumph of international stardom, JEWEL has traveled a singular road as an acclaimed singer, songwriter, poet, actress and painter.
The three-time Grammy nominee, hailed by The Times of London as the most sparkling female singer-songwriter since Joni Mitchell, nevertheless remains a unique and authentic artist, exploring fresh musical avenues for more than a decade that have taken her from the simplicity of acoustic-driven folk to the embrace of rock, pop, country, blues, jazz and classical influences.
To date, JEWEL has sold over 25 million albums worldwide, enjoying a career longevity rare among her generation of artists. Whether alone with her guitar or fronting a band of ace musicians, Jewel has always been a charismatic live performer, earning the respect of other singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young, who have invited her to open their shows.
A native of Payson, Utah, raised in Homer and Anchorage, Alaska, Jewel (born Jewel Kilcher) was the descendent of homesteaders: her mothers family old-guard Mormon, her fathers side Swiss futurists who immigrated before World War II. Both of her parents, Atz and Nedra, enjoyed making local records and performing and, along with her brothers, Jewel (a moniker taken from her mothers family name) accompanied her parents on tours through native villages. At six,
“I remember singing for Eskimos and Aleuts in remote places, taking dog sled rides through frozen tundra,” she says.
Heartfelt songwriting became not only an emotional outlet, but a means of survival. During Spring Break one year she took a train and hitchhiked in Mexico, earning money as a street-corner minstrel. I made up lyrics everywhere I went and eventually it turned into a very long song about what I saw around me, she recalls. I made it back to school two weeks later with an unformed song called “Who Will Save Your Soul?” She was sixteen at the time and had no idea that that song would, a mere three years later, become the first single from her first album, offering not just a days meal ticket, but meteoric success.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had the pleasure of catching up with JEWEL in between shows on her current Picking Up The Pieces Tour. Enjoy Nicole’s chat with Jewel below!
I understand you are currently traveling on your ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ Tour! Where does our interview find you today? What’s on the agenda besides our interview?
I am in Delaware today, where I have a show tonight!
You released the aptly titled, Lullaby (2009) which you described as “not just for children, but also adults” and features “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and a second children’s album: The Merry Goes ‘Round (2011) via the Fisher-Price brand. Would you like to release another lullaby or children’s album in the future?
I was really pleased with Lullaby from an artistic standpoint, as it let me create a record that I was very passionate about. I had written myself lullabies since I was sixteen, having moved out so young, I had really bad anxiety and sleeping problems, so I wrote myself lullabies. I finally had a chance to compile them completely independently, and licensed to Fisher Price’s brand.
I sold over a half million records, which felt incredibly successful given today’s market and the fact that it had no radio support and no traditional sort of album launch. After that, I did “The Merry Goes Round,” which is really for the whole family, and wrote it for my son while I was pregnant. I would love to make more of that style record, it’s something I really enjoy.
You have collaborated with a variety of so many great artists such as John Rich of Big & Rich, R&B singer, Tyrese (“Make It Last”), Kelly Clarkson (“Foolish Games”) and Pistol Annies (“You Were Meant For Me”) for fresh renditions off your 2012 Greatest Hits album and Blues Traveler (co-writing the song, “Hearts Still Awake”). Who would you love to collaborate with next?
“On my album I was very proud that I got to collaborate and write and sing a song with Rodney Crowell. And then to have Dolly Parton sing on a song that I wrote called “My Father’s Daughter” was incredible. Honestly, for me right now, those are my dream-come-true collaborations, so who knows what will happen next!”
Jewel, besides being a singer-songwriter, guitarist, author, poet AND producer, you also act! Do you have any plans to do more acting in the near future?
I just signed on with Hallmark to do a Mystery Wheel movie, and I’ll be starting that in October of this year. Acting is really fun as a mom, because it lets me do something that’s family-oriented and family-friendly with my time. It only takes up a month, my son can come with me on location, and then I work five days a week and have the weekends off to spend with him.
Who have been your inspirations (be it movies, artists, musicians, person) growing up that also inspire you today?
“I tended to gravitate towards artists that didn’t use their art as propaganda to make themselves seem more perfect than they were. I like the authors that lead with their flaws, like a Charles Bukowski novel.
Musically, I love Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Joni Mitchell. I liked people that had the courage to be themselves, unapologetically.”
As a young child growing up in Homer, Alaska, you fell in love with music and earned a living by singing in bars and taverns with your Dad. To strum, you even employ a unique self-created finger-picking technique or “hard pick”. It was from these experiences you learned to yodel (which you do in many of your songs). That must have had a great impact on you, seeing so many musicians play at such a young age? What was your favorite memory from that time?
I started singing on-stage when I was five at my parent’s dinner shows at a local hotel for tourists. What I remember from that time is I really loved practicing.
“I didn’t perform because I wanted to be on stage or be applauded, I was actually very shy, but practicing felt like a puzzle that I had to get all of the right pieces for. I had to learn to sing, how to harmonize, how to yodel.”
My biggest influence was my dad – my education was watching my dad winging a setlist, interacting with a crowd, and singing a lot of cover songs. I didn’t learn to play guitar until I was 16 when I moved out on my own, but that’s what got me writing and developing my own guitar style. I think being raised with music from such a young age was really important, because by the time I was eighteen, I did have a good skill set and was able to hold my own in a really difficult environment as I began to tour. If I didn’t have that early experience and known how to command a crowd, I wouldn’t have done as well.
Nowadays, everything is so instant…you push a button and it’s yours a la Spotify, Soundcloud, iTunes etc. What was the first album you saved up your money as a kid and bought for yourself? (That you can remember…or what album had the most impact for you growing up?)
“The first record I can remember ever buying was Pink Floyd. I was six and I think I thought it was Pink Panther – something about the pink I liked! For a large part of my childhood I imagined the Pink Panther singing every song on “The Wall”! Pretty heavy.”
Two of my favorite artists growing up were Cole Porter and Ella Fitzgerald. Ella’s voice was a revelation, how agile and how much of an instrument it was for her. And Cole was just so clever in his lyric style.
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
“I think the first song I wanted to emulate was Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat”. It just had such an unrequited melancholy and a poetic feel to it. I remember thinking, back when I was in eighth grade, that I wanted to try to recreate that feeling for one of my own songs. And then when I sat down at 18 and began writing “Foolish Games,” that was really the song I had in my head. It’s just a very potent, angry, emotional song with vivid visual metaphors.”
Who is in your current playlist? …Any “guilty pleasures” in that mix or any genres we would be surprised to find in there?
Jason Isbell, on a singer-songwriter front, is really talented. When I first listened to Ed Sheeran’s second record, I was really blown away by it and knew it was going to be a master smash. I also love Selena Gomez’s record, I think it’s a great pop record.
What’s on tap next for you, Jewel? What are you most excited about for this year?
It’s been fun to tour and bring my son on the tour and bring my book to life. I will be doing a movie in the fall and hopefully will get a break in between.
I am also working on a website to accompany my book. So many people have asked me if I did certain things to help myself to overcome negative thought patterns and retraining my brain to create change in my life. So, I am going to create a website where I share the exercises that I created for myself, in the hopes that it might help somebody else who is dealing with the same sort of things I was.
To stay connected to JEWEL , visit her socials below!